At PGOMG, we offer genetic testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 genes. Genetic testing for the breast and ovarian cancer genes has been in the headlines as of late, with celebrities such as Angelina Jolie speaking out about genetic testing and her decision to seek preventive surgeries in order to reduce her cancer risk.
Undergoing genetic testing for cancer genes is a deeply personal decision – many women are fearful of what the tests will tell them and whether they will need surgery in order to help protect themselves against cancer. Obviously this emotional process requires a great deal of thought, and the decision to undergo testing for BRCA 1 and/or BRCA 2 ultimately rests with each woman and on what she thinks is best for her future health.
Who should get tested?
At PGOMG, our providers cannot say for sure who should seek genetic testing and who is not necessarily at risk unless we speak with you directly about your personal and family health history. However, for those who are unsure if they are a candidate for BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 testing, several factors can indicate a need for screening, including:
- Personal history of breast or ovarian cancer (age 45 and younger).
- Known existence of BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 in your family.
- Ashkenazi Jewish heritage.
- A family member under age 50, diagnosed with breast and/or ovarian cancer, and related to you in one of the following ways:
- A parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt/uncle, niece/nephew, first cousin or child.
Should you have any concerns about whether you qualify for genetic testing for breast and/or ovarian cancer genes, we encourage you to contact your PGOMG provider to discuss your risk factors further.
What if I test positive?
A positive test for BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 does not translate into a definitive future cancer diagnosis – this is a misconception that has caused a great deal of concern and resistance to genetic testing. A positive test simply indicates that one or both genes have been inherited, and that there is an increased risk of developing certain cancers. Again, a positive test does not guarantee that you will have cancer in the future. A positive test result will often engender discussions between your doctor and you as to what, if any, steps will need to be taken to help prevent cancer. Your doctor’s recommendation will depend on a whole host of factors – your personal and family health history, your test results, your age, if you have plans to have children, etc.
Many women and men who test positive for these genes go on to live long, cancer-free lives – some do so without surgery, and some may need surgery to help ensure this. We strongly encourage women to contact their providers with any questions they may have if they believe they are at risk for inheriting the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene.